Each night partner and I say together the antiphon at the end of Compline from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer: Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.
Last night as I lay awake I wondered about that word "watch". For us Americans, "watch" is a passive verb. We follow action with our eyes, and in sports, we get excited as we watch and we cheer or boo. But, we are minimally acting. We are watching others act.
Photo courtesy of APOD/NASA, Tunc Tezel photographer
Psalm 130 finds us aching for God just as watchmen on the walls of the city do for the first dawning light. They squinted their eyes, looked away, looked back, spotted the first glow of sunrise - and then they acted. They sprinted away to the temple to tell the priests. People awoke to greet the daybreak. Watching was an active occupation followed by alerting the right ones who then provoked real action among all people.
I am not very active right now, but watching is something I can do. I can scrutinize the workings of the world and alert the right people when I see (another word for watch but with different connotations) wrongdoing or something about to go awry. I can be a watchman (please pardon my gender here for I am following the words of the psalm that I love). I can scan the internet. I can listen when I am out. I can read books, magazines and newspapers. I can listen, and sometimes I can even watch television. I can deliberately set out to "watch" the world with Christ, analyzing what is happening by Christ's saying of the two great commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself.
If I learn that someone is ill, I can alert the clergy and send out a message to our prayer chain. If I read an article that speaks of actions I believe are wrong, I can call the appropriate authority - government, board of directors, managers, corporate headquarters and I can write a letter to the editor with a different viewpoint on the same topic.
While I may not have the same effect on the population that the watchmen of old had on their world, I can have some effect. As Mother Teresa said about loving the world - one by one.